#TeamCarbon: Meet Dr. Zetian Mi

Zetian MiDr. Zetian Mi is a Professor at the University of Michigan’s Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in the College of Engineering. His group is focused on the investigation of semiconductor nanostructures and their application in electronic, photonic, and solar energy devices and systems. Learn more about Dr. Mi’s perspective on how to turn carbon dioxide into an asset.

Q: What does your research or portfolio currently focus on?

A: My research currently focuses on artificial photosynthesis, i.e., the chemical transformation of carbon dioxide and water into hydrogen and hydrocarbon fuels. In this process, solar energy is used as the primary energy input.

Q: What challenges or opportunities is your work trying to address scaling and commercializing carbon management technology and approaches?

A: We use Si and GaN, the most produced semiconductors, to build artificial photosynthesis devices to turn carbon dioxide from a waste into an asset. This process provides a highly scalable solution for carbon management. This is a potentially disruptive technology but still at a relatively early stage of research and development.

Q: What role do you think carbon technology plays in climate mitigation policies?

A: I think carbon technology should play an essential role. The development of innovative carbon technology should be strongly supported in climate mitigation policies.

Q: What real world application or sector(s) do you see your research having the most impact on?

A: Our technology turns carbon dioxide into chemical fuels. The solar fuels can be for transportation, e.g., replacing jet fuels with solar fuels. They can also be used as feedstocks for the chemical engineering industry.

Q: What is the biggest hurdle to increasing R&D on carbon management efforts?

A: The biggest hurdle to increasing R&D on carbon management efforts is lack of government funding.

Q: How do students react to your work or this climate mitigation approach in general?

A: Students are very enthusiastic when introduced to this type of work.

Q: What advice do you have for technologists or entrepreneurs starting off in this field?

A: This is arguably the most exciting time to start off in this field, but please be patient. We are addressing the grand challenge of the century, and any disruptive technology requires time and patience.